How did such a culturally diverse upbringing affect her as an adult? How would she describe her own personal faith as a result of such a childhood?
“Well you know,” she says, somewhat reservedly, “Without wanting to be too – as you know, faith is a private thing. However, just to say that I have grown up with these three great Abrahamic monotheistic faiths.
“The first-ever monotheist was Zoroaster from ancient Persia, so I have all of that in my blood and in my bones and I do practice and I am teaching my son the traditions of faith, Jewish and Christian, and because his father is Jewish and my mother is English and Catholic,
I have also opened his eyes to the fact that there is such commonality and to respect religion and respect the tradition and to respect the values taught.”
Amanpour talks to Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass. Photo by Shawn Baldwin, ABC News
That’s been one of her goals for the ABC Primetime Special “Back to the Beginning,” scheduled to air on December 21 and 28. For the segments in Egypt and the Sinai desert, she took along12-year-old, Darius.
“I wanted to show people that it’s OK to visit these places even with your kids,” she says. “It’s part of the story, handing down these stories generation to generation. It was incredible to take my son with me and to show him what I do – and the incredible privilege I’ve had being able to travel the world.
“I want him to learn so much about it all and I want to increase the body of knowledge that I have in order to be able to tell these stories and these important events.”
Did the trip change Darius? What did he bring back from the adventure?
“I believe the experience gave him a huge amount of knowledge,” she says, “and so, like all curious and inquisitive and active pre-teens, he was really interested. It’s fantastic to see all these places through a child’s eyes. It gave him a sense of ‘Wow, I hear about Moses and I read his story. I did my school project on Martin Luther King and he spoke about the Promised Land.’ So many freedom fighters take their inspiration from Moses. He and I we climbed Mount Sinai all the way up to the top. It was just phenomenal for my son to be able to see where it all happened.”
Do she and Darius and her husband celebrate Christmas?
“Well, you know, Christmas is about family,” she says. “It’s about presents and holidays and carol-singing. It’s about going to church and it’s about doing all that.
“I think for myself, the parts of Christmas that are applicable, I think, so much – in our coverage and so much in my daily life — are the
the incredible teachings about justice, social justice, the incredible biblical teachings about forgiveness, about having a set of moral values about welcoming strangers and hospitality.”
Such hospitality was extended to her one memorable Christmas when she was in college and sharing a house with several other students, including John F. Kennedy Jr.
“John’s birthday just passed and he would have been 52 years old,” she muses. “I believe he would have been a great and positive force in this country. All of us who loved him and all of us who were his friends and, of course, his family you know, never stop missing him.
“Especially at Christmas, I never stop missing his friendship and his charisma and the tragic loss of an opportunity for him to display his full potentials for America and the world.
“I spent one of my Christmases away from home with John and his family, his mother and his sister – the Christmas of 1989. I was a low-level reporter at CNN. I was based here in New York. It was my last Christmas in the United States before I was sent abroad to cover the unfolding revolutions in Central Europe, do you remember the Iron Curtain coming down?
“The last revolution was in Romania and, in fact, on Christmas day, the former president of Romania, Ceausescu and his wife were executed and we watched that on television. I remember watching with John and marveling at how it was all happening.
“A couple days later I was sent as a producer into the field and I never came back. I’ve been on assignment virtually ever since. I went on to cover the Gulf War in 1990 and that was the beginning of my career as a correspondent. So, that Christmas of 1989 we spent together is special and wonderful. I will never forget it.”
Did she jump into that assignment with an advantage – having grown up there?
“I think it gives me an edge,” she says. “I think it allowed me to move freely without having to fear. It allows me to understand the culture and the nature of the place that I’m going into and to be able to look at it from a different perspective.